Paul 'Triple H' Levesque talks NXT TakeOver: Respect, Dusty Rhodes, EVOLVE and more

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Triple H attends the WrestleMania 30 press conference at the Hard Rock Cafe New York on April 1, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Paul “Triple H” Levesque, WWE’s executive vice president of talent, live events and creative, held another conference call with the wrestling media Tuesday afternoon ahead of NXT TakeOver: Respect, which will air live on the WWE Network at 8 p.m. Wednesday, and began the call by saying he was late because he called WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino to wish him a happy 80th birthday.

He then gave his thoughts on NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn back in August and said that everyone was on a “massive, emotional high” coming out of the historic event. He said that the next live special, NXT TakeOver: London on Dec. 16, has already sold out.

He then hyped NXT TakeOver: Respect and talked about the meaning behind the title of the event.

“The name has a lot of meaning,” he said. “It’s a lot about Dusty [Rhodes] and his contributions to everything at the [WWE] Performance Center and NXT. Dusty, as I’ve said before, just can’t be replicated and can’t be replaced here.

“All of these talents are performing in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, which will culminate this Wednesday at TakeOver, and that all comes down to their respect for Dusty and I think they’re all looking forward to making this something special in Dusty’s memory,” he added.

Levesque also talked about how the women of NXT finally earned the respect of being in the main event of a TakeOver special, as Bayley will defend her NXT Women’s championship against Sasha Banks in a 30-minute ironman match.

“This is a very special night for a lot of people and I think that Bayley and Sasha, as much as they’ve already done to revolutionize women’s wrestling, as much as they’ve done to put on a different platform, I think they’ll raise that bar again this Wednesday night,” he said.

Levesque then opened the call to questions from the media.

He was asked about the differences in the demographics that tune into NXT and WWE’s main product. As an example, the crowds for NXT during SummerSlam weekend skewed a little older than WWE’s main shows.

Levesque said he noticed the difference, but is more focused on how much crossover there is between NXT and WWE.

“NXT is realistically no different from a performance standpoint, but it’s a little edgier, it’s a little more underground,” Levesque said. “I’ve heard people say that NXT is punk rock or heavy metal. It’s more of a niche. I think that’s what you derive from that. We’re feeding that niche. That niche is huge, though.”

“If NXT is punk and heavy metal and hip-hop, then WWE is more pop music,” he added. “It kind of catches everybody and it’s your general population. You’ve got kids, you got older adults, you’ve got young adults, you’ve got just about everybody in there and you’re trying to serve all of those masters. [NXT] is trying to serve a niche. I know who my fan base is with NXT and that’s who I’m trying to serve.”

Levesque was then asked about how the WWE Performance Center has attempted to fill Rhodes’ role since he passed away earlier this year. Levesque said that no one can truly replace Rhodes and that as of now his role is essentially being split among those who coach at the WWE Performance Center -- namely, William Regal -- and guest teachers.

“What Dusty created with that promo class, the way he operated it worked for him and it worked for the way he worked with talent and the way he gave them guidance and directions,” Levesque said. “We’re still kind of using that same format and we’re kind of just having other people take the place, but I’m really trying to do is find the right person or people to be in that role but yet morph to what works to how they’re going to teach and how they’re going to direct that process.”

Levesque was asked about NXT’s relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling and whether there will be more talent appearing on NXT, like Jushin “Thunder” Liger did in Brooklyn. Levesque said that he is “open to anything.” He said that with NXT, he can forge relationships with other wrestling promotions across the world.

“I’ve met with New Japan. We’ll see what comes out of it,” he said. “I really look at NXT and all of this with a blank slate and an open mind and what is best at the end of the day for our fan base.”

He touched on this topic again at the end of the call, when he was asked about NXT’s relationship with EVOLVE and whether it was using EVOLVE as a bit of a feeder system. Levesque confirmed that NXT uses EVOLVE as a feeder system and that he loves what Gabe Sapolsky is doing with the promotion and its talent.

“They are one of the sounder promotions as far as how they handle their talent, as far as how they tell their stories and as far as how they handle their in-ring product,” Levesque said.

Levesque also said that he’s interested in a talent exchange with EVOLVE in which NXT could not only take talent from, but also send talent to EVOLVE to get extra seasoning before moving to the WWE Performance Center on a full-time basis.

Levesque was also asked about a tweet sent by current NXT champion Finn Balor, who did the D-Generation X crotch chop underneath a TNA Wrestling logo hanging outside the promotion’s headquarters in Nashville, Tenn.

Levesque said he thought the tweet was funny and had no problem with it. He then explained why Balor was even outside of TNA’s headquarters to begin with.

According to Levesque, Balor and the rest of the NXT crew were transported by bus to a Nashville gym in which WWE had arranged for them to work out. It just so happened that the gym was right next to TNA Wrestling’s offices.

“Finn has a very large sense of humor and thought that it would be quite entertaining to jump out of the bus and of course get under the sign and take a photo,” Levesque said.

Levesque then revealed that Balor sent him the photo before posting it to make sure he was OK with it. Obviously, Levesque was. The photo has been retweeted more than 5,000 times.

“Look, he’s having fun,” Levesque said. “People take stuff too seriously. He’s having a great time and people fire back or whatever. It’s creative and it’s fun and it’s good-spirited.”